Pocock insists on offsets overhaul

Independent senator David Pocock has demanded a raft of changes to carbon credits, as Climate Minister Chris Bowen develops a plan to sidestep the senate to enact changes to the emissions safeguard scheme.

What we know:

  • Pocock has urged the Albanese government to implement all 16 recommendations from the Chubb review of Australia’s carbon credit system before introducing its safeguards changes (The Guardian);
  • The crossbencher said the “huge reliance” on carbon credits in the safeguard meant there would be doubts over it, if it were introduced before Chubb’s recommendations;
  • They include a new independent body with powers to ensure carbon credit methods provide genuine emissions cuts, the public release of more information about carbon credit projects, and tightening rules around forest offsets (Carbon Market Institute);  
  • There are growing concerns about the integrity of Australia’s carbon credits system, which is largely run by former or current fossil fuel executives (The Monthly); 
  • A spokesperson for Bowen sais some recommendations had already been introduced, such as revoking the “avoided deforestation” method, which awards credits to NSW landholders for not bulldozing trees if they have a permit to clear them;
  • Pocock’s vote is key if a planned revamp of the safeguard mechanism is to clear the senate, with the government requiring the Greens plus two more votes;
  • Bowen, however, is reportedly prepared to sidestep senate objections by issuing the scheme’s final rules in April via direct ministerial regulation (The Australian $); 
  • Those rules could then be overturned if the Greens, Coalition and crossbenchers team up in the senate to support a disallowance motion.

Robert admits to robo-debt lies

Former Coalition minister Stuart Robert has admitted to the robo-debt inquiry that he made false public statements in support of the illegal scheme.

What we know:

  • Fronting the royal commission on Thursday, Robert claimed he first became aware of concerns with the legality of the scheme in a meeting with his department in July 2019 (The Saturday Paper); 
  • Robert said that after the meeting he “held a strong personal view” that the sole use of averaged income data from the tax office was insufficient to raise a debt under the scheme (SMH); 
  • He justified defending the scheme in public through that period, arguing he was required to defend it as a cabinet minister, and admitted making statements he personally considered false;
  • Robert added that he was awaiting the solicitor general’s advice on the scheme, which he did not get until November;
  • Other public servants to testify before the inquiry say Robert was the last holdout on the scheme, defying their attempts to convince him to shut it down (The Guardian); 
  • Former acting Department of Human Services chief counsel Timothy Ffrench last week testified to the inquiry that Robert described formal warnings the scheme was illegal as “just an opinion” (The Saturday Paper); 
  • Liberal senator Marise Payne also appeared before the commission, and was asked how the robo-debt proposal, originally flagged as requiring legislative changes to go ahead, was later presented to cabinet as not needing any changes (Canberra Times); 
  • Payne said she was told that the two departments tasked with overseeing the scheme were working through any legislative changes and “there was not a red flag or a stop sign placed in front of me”;
  • The inquiry continues today, with officers from a consultancy firm tasked with auditing the scheme to face questioning (West Australian).

Ryan case tests overtime rule

Federal MP Monique Ryan and her chief of staff Sally Rugg will head to court today after mediation broke down between the pair.

Rugg took legal action against her boss in January, alleging her job was set to be terminated because she refused to work overtime hours that were “unreasonable” (ABC).

Rugg will accuse Ryan of “serious contraventions” of workplace law, alleging she was dismissed from her job as Ryan’s chief of staff for exercising her right to refuse to work unreasonable, additional hours (The Age).

Rugg’s lawyer, Josh Bornstein, said the proceedings would become a test case in parliamentary workplace culture after his client claimed she had been subject to excessive demands of 70-hour work weeks.

Bornstein said if Rugg was successful, it would potentially open the door for class actions, “not just for employees of the Commonwealth but for every Australian worker experiencing exploitation, because of a contractual obligation to perform undefined ‘reasonable additional hours’.”

The Commonwealth and Ryan deny these allegations and are defending the claim.


Australia Post delivers loss

The government has launched a sweeping review of Australia Post's business model, flagging a  reduction of its deeply unprofitable letter delivery service.

In a new consultation paper released on Thursday, the federal government is warning that the requirements placed on Australia Post will likely need to change (SBS). 

Australia Post is expected to run at a loss this financial year for the first time since 2015, with those losses expected to grow in the years ahead, mainly due to a steep decline in its letter delivery business.

Australians received an average of 2.4 letters a week in the 2022 financial year, down from a peak of 8.5 letters in the 2008 financial year.

By the end of the decade, Australia Post expects us to receive less than one letter a week.

Its parcel delivery business is growing steadily thanks to our thirst for online shopping, but is facing stiff competition from courier providers.

The government has suggested ways to modernise the service could include increasing flexibility and delivery reliability of parcels, increasing convenience, investing in better technology and changing letter delivery standards and pricing arrangements.


Fury over Greek train disaster

The death toll from a train collision in Greece has increased to 57, as public anger over the disaster grows.

A passenger train carrying 350 people collided with a freight train after both ended up on the same track (BBC). 

Rail workers held a one-day strike on Thursday, following protests in Athens, Thessaloniki and Larissa.

The union blamed successive governments’ “disrespect” towards Greek railways for leading to this “tragic result”.

Zoe Rapti, Greece's deputy minister of Health, said that investing in the rail network had been made more difficult by the Greek debt crisis in 2010, which led to austerity measures in exchange for a financial rescue by the European Union.

The government has promised that an independent investigation will deliver justice.

A station master in Larissa has been charged with manslaughter by negligence, and has admitted to having a share of responsibility in the crash.


We apologise to those artists, sponsors and any others we involved in this matter through our mistaken belief that forgiveness and redemption are the rock on which our society is built.

Byron Bay Bluesfest organisers cram an impressive amount of passive-aggressiveness into their announcement that scandal-ridden band Sticky Fingers will be dropped from the line-up, after a wave of criticism (NME).


Postscript: Medieval babycare

From mansplaining about breastfeeding to debates on developmental toys, medieval parenting was full of familiar dilemmas (Aeon).